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Accident or incident? Overuse of the term ‘accident’ can breed complacency, says Mentor

Mentor Training believe that clarifying the difference between ‘accidents’ and ‘incidents’ could help employers and employees to realise and accept responsibility for their actions.

"People tend to overuse the word ‘accident’" says Technical Manager Steve Baldwin. "It seems to imply a certain degree of random inevitability, and if people adopt the attitude that ‘accidents’ at work are unavoidable and happen purely by chance, then they are much less likely to take important preventative measures.

"In most instances, the term ‘incident’ is more appropriate. In the context of safety, this would apply to any event which gives cause for concern. It is far more accurate as it makes no assumptions."

Incidents should include near misses, and reports of dangerous actions, as well as events in which there is harm to people and property. Mentor is keen that all of these should be investigated so that lessons can be learned and changes can be made.

Steve Baldwin continues: "To anyone who says ‘accidents will happen’, I would say that in materials handling very few incidents are unavoidable. The vast majority – perhaps as many as 90 per cent – could have been prevented if the right measures had been taken against any reasonably foreseeable risks.

"By taking all the right steps, including risk assessments, compliance with safety legislation, effective supervision and good training of operators and managers, there is little scope for an accident to occur."

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